Downton Abbey

  1. Previous installments can be found here. There will be spoilers. “An historian” is a perfectly acceptable Commonwealth convention, haters to the left [side of the road]. In 1914, a lance-sergeant from the King’s Royal Rifle Corps deserted the army after a battle and sought refuge in a nearby French village. He was arrested in March 1915; although he had difficulty answering simple questions and eventually explained that he had had a nervous breakdown, he was…

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  2. Previous installments can be found here. There will be spoilers. “An historian” is a perfectly acceptable Commonwealth convention, haters to the left [side of the road]. A spectre is haunting Downton Abbey. It is the spectre of the Russian Revolution. In last week’s episode, Tom Branson described the Russian Revolution of 1917 as the only worthwhile thing to come out of World War I. This week, we learn that Rose is planning to become involved…

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  3. Previous installments can be found here. There will be spoilers. “An historian” is a perfectly acceptable Commonwealth convention, haters to the left [side of the road]. “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” --Matthew 20:16 Is there a new revolutionary at Downton Abbey? Sarah Bunting, the local leftist schoolteacher, featured prominently in the first episode of the new season. “Here she comes, the Boudica of the North Riding,” Lord Grantham…

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  4. Previous installments in this series can be found here. There will be spoilers. “An historian” is a perfectly acceptable Commonwealth convention, haters to the left [side of the road.] This, our last post of the season, was brought to you by an enthusiastic reader in honour of her sister Dr. J's birthday this Friday.  This is a history column, and I’m not an entertainment critic, but it must be said: the season finale (the…

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  5. Previous installments in this series can be found here. There will be spoilers. “An historian” is a perfectly acceptable Commonwealth convention, haters to the left [side of the road.] Cousin Violet was full of pithy advice in this week’s episode. She deprecates the examined life upon hearing of Lord Gillingham’s period of self-reflection in Scotland (to be fair, it doesn’t seem to have done him any good); then later, at the church bazaar, she tells…

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  6. Previous installments in this series can be found here. There will be spoilers. “An historian” is a perfectly acceptable Commonwealth convention, haters to the left [side of the road.] I’ve been thinking all season about how the state, in Downton Abbey, looms just off-screen. Lord Grantham and his fellow aristocrats are obviously part of a ruling elite, but the modern state itself is generally nearly invisible, just poking its head around for brief and usually…

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  7. Previous installments in this series can be found here. There will be spoilers. “An historian” is a perfectly acceptable Commonwealth convention, haters to the left [side of the road.] Not long after the end of season three of Downton Abbey, rumors began about a black character who would be introduced in the new season (producing one of the funniest satires on Downton, “Downton Diddy”.  So far, the plotline involving Jack Ross, the black American…

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  8. Previous installments in this series can be found here. There will be spoilers. “An historian” is a perfectly acceptable Commonwealth convention, haters to the left [side of the road.] What use was aristocracy in twentieth century Britain? And what, specifically, was the use of a landed aristocracy in a rural, agricultural setting? These questions animate Downton Abbey at the most fundamental level. This week brought them into even sharper relief, as issues of taxes and estate…

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  9. Previous installments in this series can be found here. There will be spoilers. “An historian” is a perfectly acceptable Commonwealth convention, haters to the left [side of the road.] Marie Stopes (1880-1958) was a remarkable person. The daughter of progressive intellectuals, she earned a science degree (botany and geology) from University College, London, in 1902 before becoming the first woman to take a PhD in botany from the Botanical Institute in Munich and the first woman…

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  10. Previous installments in this series can be found here. There will be spoilers. "An historian" is a perfectly acceptable Commonwealth convention, haters to the left [side of the road.] The things that bother me most about Downton Abbey are not simply about historical accuracy. I think that historical accuracy is a complicated issue and not actually easy to get right. How do you write dialogue for characters that would have used slang that would…

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  11. As an historian of nineteenth and twentieth century Britain and Ireland, I resisted watching Downton Abbey for a long time. I’ve been immersed in the 1920s and the 1930s for over a decade, and I was afraid it would be like seeing all of my favorite books made into one terrible movie, every single week. I also didn’t want to be that cranky person in the corner pointing out anachronisms that don’t really matter to

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